Briefly, a man took a boat trip from Marquette to see the fames Pictured Rocks. He saw a beautiful bay and had a vision. He had the money and backing to buy the shoreline. He advertized for surveyors and lumberjacks and platted a town. His name was Timothy Nester, and the new town was called Munising - “the place by the island.” The year was 1895. Within months people came, lived in tents or out in the open. By 1896 there were log cabins, frame houses and boarding houses. There were about 3,000 people and the new village was incorporated May 8, 1896.
“Man does not live by bread alone.” His inner being cries out for God. Priests and ministers bring the Word of God, remind man of his destiny and direct him to the Ultimate.
In 1896, Bishop John Vertin of Marquette, aware of the growing community of Munising, sent Father Anthony Molinari as the first resident priest. The Catholic ladies gave him dinner for the benefit of the new church. “A hot meal guaranteed to satisfy for the price of twenty-five cents.” Proceeds, $600.
Before this time Mass was celebrated in homes. There was a place called Kelly’s Hall. The priest celebrated Mass on top of the piano with the “organist” on the other side leading hymns. Apparently, if you “shake the bushes” you can find Catholics all over the place - somehow they bring their faith with them.
Father John Burns followed shortly and in the fall of 1897 construction of the new church was started. When it was completed, he moved into the sacristy which served as bedroom, office and living quarters. The church was built along the lines of the early mission churches. It was a white wooden structure with a towering belfry.
In 1898, Father Henry Buckholtz was appointed pastor and stayed until 1904. The new church was dedicated by Bishop Vertin on September 11, 1898. Some of the first baptism records were: Sophie Emard, Alexander Monette, Mary Roberts, Mary Boucher, Frank Trombley. Marraiges: William Blanchard and Ann Depew, Napoleon Berube and Ann Terrian. Deaths: Edward Hughes, Mary Girard, Ernest Tellinier.
In 1900, the financial report showed cash receipts of $2,666.69 and expenditures of $2,586.26. The new rectory was built on the north side of the church at this time. Trustees were Messrs. Louis Rowe, J. Conry, Frank Hausler and Joseph Goss.
Father John Kraker came in 1904. During his stay a bell from Belgium and a valuable pipe organ were installed.
From 1908 until 1915, Father Joseph Dittman was the leader of this active parish. It was his love of the principles of Catholic Education that enabled the parish to build a parochial school of eight grades in 1913. At the time it was considered the last word in structure and ranked among the finest in the North Country. The original cost was $17,000. The basement, first floor and half of the second floor were devoted to classrooms. The other half of the second floor was reserved as a residence for the Sisters. The convent was built in 1924.
The school opened in 1914 and was staffed by six Sisters of St. Dominic from Adrian, Michigan. Bishop Eis came from Marquette to dedicate the school on October 4th. The first year enrollment was 316 students. The Dominicans taught here until its closing in 1970 - 56 years.
Father Peter Manderfield replaced Father Dittman in 1915 and stayed until 1935 – the longest tenure of any pastor. On the morning of April 27, 1933, disaster struck Sacred Heart Parish. Before Mass on this Thursday morning a strong wind caught a spark from the chimney at the rear of the building. Mr. W. C. Tate discovered the fire on his way to work, but it was too late. The next Sunday Masses were celebrated in the Delft Theater and following that the Mather High School auditorium. Later the basement of the school was used for Masses.
Immediately, plans were made to rebuild the church on the site next to the convent. A drive was started in June to raise $18,000. The plan was to build a basement only and the superstructure as funds were available. On June 28, fifty-five men under the direction of George Wilderspin started the excavation for a building 103 x 36. Shortly after, this work was halted and never resumed. The story is that Father Manderfield forgot to tell the Bishop. He was transferred.
Father Ovid LaMothe arrived in May 1935. He was known as the orator of the diocese, and there was hardly a church in the diocese in which he did not speak on some occasion. He put aside $90,000 for the new church and was ready to move when he quickly passed away on September 22, 1946.
Father Gerald Harrington succeeded, October 6, 1946. Plans were delayed for the new church because of the death of Bishop Magner. With the appointment of Bishop Thomas L. Noa the plans were resumed. There were some delays because of construction costs. The plans were finally approved and construction began the summer of 1949. The cornerstone was placed, September 4, 1949, and the dedication took place June 16, 1950, on the feast of the Sacred Heart. The cost was $350,000. Father Harrington passed away October 15, 1962.
Father Emil J. Beyer was transferred from St. Gregory, Newberry to Sacred Heart, Munising on April 30, 1963. A quick census of the parish revealed the potential. In the next four years the remaining debt of $17,000 was paid and $70,000 applied to the church to correct a serious water and ice problem. In 1964, with the help of the men of the parish, the interior of the church was decorated and the people saw the beauty of their church for the first time. In 1972 the steeple of the church was removed because of an ice problem.
There was talk of a new rectory. After two bids, which were too costly, the people decided on a “modest” rectory at the back of the church. It was completed in October, 1966.
Bad news came in January of 1970 when the Provincial of Adrian decided to recall all of the Sisters. At a parish-wide meeting in February, it was decided to close Sacred Heart School. The sad day arrived June 4, 1970, and the Sacred Heart School closed its doors. At the time there were three Dominican Sisters and three lay teachers. Enrollment was 170. In August, 1971, the convent and property were sold to the Munising Public School System for $29,650.00. The convent was demolished in November.
It was necessary to continue with a CCD program. Brother Felix of the Christian Brothers took over the job of Religious Coordinator. In October, 1970, with 32 lay teachers, trained under Brother Felix, almost 500 students were enrolled in religious instruction on a released time basis.
Father Beyer's history takes us through the mid 1970’s but time continues on and many changes have occurred – a Rogers electronic pipe organ, barrier-free access to the church.
Reverend Christopher Gardiner is our present pastor and under his guidance changes have continued with the installation of an elevator to our church basement which was donated by the Bartilucci family, a new steeple was built which now gives our church a finished look, the LaMothe Hall has been rewired with new electrical and the kitchen has been renovated. Serious furnace problems resulted in two new furnaces and a new heating system.
We are looking forward to even more changes with the renovation of the interior of the church on the horizon.
By Rev. Emil J. Beyer
St. Therese Mission at Au Train was named in honor of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus, the “Little Flower” of Lisieux, France. The church was dedicated December 14, 1947.
Early history reveals that there was a lively little community of about 500 people at Onota, now known as Bay Furnace, on the west side of Munising Bay. The principle industry was logging and a charcoal kiln owned by Charles Shaeffer. On May 31, 1877 fire destroyed the entire community. Some of the people moved to Marquette, others to East Munising, and a few families trudged to a beautiful spot some six miles away at the mouth of a little river on Lake Superior. This became a permanent settlement and is known as Au Train. Pioneer families who made the trek were the Bovans, Doucettes, Reffruschinnis, Carriers, Camerons and Boogrens.
At the time spiritual attention to these Catholic families was sporadic at best. Bishop Frederick Eis, at his last Confirmation ceremony in Sacred Heart, Munising, in the early 20’s reminisced about the days he walked from Marquette to Au Train and Bay Furnace to celebrate the Mass. Occasionally other priests from Marquette did the same.
Mssrs. Arcule Reffruschinni, George Terrio and Frank Carrier sparked a movement with their zeal and determination to see a church in their midst. However, after the building had been started, Mr. Reffruschinni was killed in an accident and the building was not completed.
In the fall of 1896 Father Anthony Molinari was appointed resident pastor in Munising and Au Train was taken care of by the priests of Munising two or three times a year. At first Mass was celebrated in the Cameron home. Frank Cameron, who died at the age of 95 in 1940, was a guide for Bishop Baraga. He directed the Bishop by boat and snowshoe to the various Indian villages between Au Train and the Soo.
After Father John Kraker was transferred from Munising in 1908, Au Train was taken care of by the Jesuit Missionary, Father Gagnieur. Once again the people embarked upon a course of raising funds and building a church but for lack of organization nothing came of it.
In the 1930’s the Mission came under the jurisdiction of the priest in charge of St. Mary’s Hospital, Marquette. In 1936 Father Frank Ignatz organized the Ladies of the Altar Society. The first officers were Winefred Bovan, president; Lottie Carrier, treasurer and Effie Campbell, secretary. For twelve years this spirited group of ladies collected funds through dues, card parties, bazaars, bake sales and suppers until enough money had been accumulated to build a church.
In the meantime Sacred Heart Parish at Munising had grown to such an extent that it warranted an assistant. With this extra help a priest from Sacred Heart could give the Mission a monthly service.
Priests who served were Frs. Edward Lulewiecz, Walter Franczek, Casimir Mark, James McNoughton, Louis Bracket and Neil Smith.
In 1947 the Ladies of the Altar Society became quite vociferous and insistent on a church. In September of that year Father Gerald Harrington obtained a CC camp from the United States Government with the expressed understanding that this building was to be used solely for religious and social purposes by the Catholic Mission of Au Train.
The building was moved to two lots donated by Frank Bovan of Au Train. The building was divided up so as to provide a church 20 by 50 and a parish hall 40 by 40 as two separate units.
The Ladies of the Altar Society had $5,797.25 “in the sock.” It cost $770.00 to move the camp, $4,747.39 to remodel and furnish the church for a grand total of $5,487.39. The Ladies had $309.86 left. With all bills paid and that kind of money, they could command the attention of the Bishop.
On December 14, 1947, the Most Reverend Thomas L. Noa, Bishop of Marquette, with a group of priests and a large gathering of the community assembled for the dedication of the new church of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus. It was a gala occasion and a tribute to a determined people of steadfast faith. Never underestimate the power of a group of women.
On November 4, 1952, Trenary was separated from Rapid River. Trenary and Au Train became a new unit. The first pastor was Father Edward Mihelich, followed by Fathers Cassanova, Brewer, Hasenberg, Hale, Haase, Wren and Terrence Donnely.
Regular weekly services were in order with two Masses weekly during the summer months to accommodate the summer tourists. The program and care of the buildings were maintained on an even keel until Father Terrence Donnely came. Bingo became legal in Michigan and Father Donnely succumbed to the Catholic tradition. The Mission is self-sufficient.
On July 25, 1974, St. Therese reverted back to Sacred Heart, Munising, and the assistant, Father Gary Jacobs, took over. The church was redecorated with some elegance and the parish hall was made safe for bingo.
We pay a well deserved tribute to all the priests, pioneers and people of today who helped make it so.